The Third Policeman

So much for New Year resolutions.  I had planned to post on WordPress every week, no great ambition considering I post on Blipfoto every day.  What got in the way – ‘events, dear boy, events’ as Harold MacMillan allegedly once said.  It’s a disappointment, not a capital crime; one for the thought police rather than the boys in blue but, it does feed a guilty conscience.  This, and a fear of authority were instilled from an early age and they persist.

In the early 1950s, the family home was still wired with pre-war round pin plugs – differently rated plugs were different sizes.  A 5 amp plug was physically different to a 15 amp plug, and they required different sockets.  The Electrolux ZA30 vacuum cleaner was fitted with a bakelite 15 amp plug conforming to BS 546. Like many family homes, the house was not converted to square pin, BS 1363, until the early 1960s, even though the British Standard was first published in 1947.

There were a number of safety features associated with BS 1363, not least the shuttered socket which prevents a child pushing a nail into one of the holes and making a live connection.  I remember no inclination to do so.  The round pins were unsafe in other ways, not directly associated with BS 546 – their bakelite construction was prone to break, revealing deadly live wires.

One innocent summer’s morning I was accused – ‘You have broken the vacuum cleaner plug Robin! – half is missing – where is it – you could have electrocuted me!’  Mother was in full exaggerated flow.  ‘Where is it, just tell me! ‘ My denials went unheeded and then, as if by magic, the broken part appeared on the staircase.  More accusations, more threats – just admit it or I am calling the police!  I was young enough to believe this a possibility.  The imagined policeman arriving at the door was not a man in blue but plain clothes CID in a brown mac.  Neither Sergeant Pluck nor Policeman MacCruiskeen, this third policeman was cobbled in my head from TV characters, none of them sympathetic. ‘Just admit it and nothing more will be done’. And so, I did.  A stinging smack, I was sent to bed for the day, no TV and only toast for tea.

This was a valuable lesson.  I learned that the truth will not always save you.  I learned that under duress, anyone can be persuaded to say anything.  I learned that grown-ups were fallible, not always to be trusted.

I was completely innocent – so innocent, I never made the obvious accusation – my sister did it!  Big sister kept quiet throughout and who could blame her given the onslaught I received.  The magical appearance on the staircase was probably an attempt to pacify except it only made things worse.

In the many days pre-school, time eased along with the tortoise whereas now, it runs with the hare. This was the longest day. It was a pattern repeated and repeated down the years.

Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular, and by nature it is interminable, repetitive, and nearly unbearable.  Flann O’Brien

At sea – back row left to right – Aunt Bet and Mum. Front row – me, big sister and cousin Brian.

The Electrolux ZA30

It is hard to imagine why this photograph was taken.  The image pre-dates my existence by several years as this is the view of my parent’s back garden in Chorlton, Manchester, somewhere I never lived.  It seems that Mum and Dad are using the reverse suction of their newly acquired Electrolux ZA30 vacuum cleaner to spray the garden.  Dad being an industrial chemist by trade, I imagine it was something akin to agent orange 😉

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I remember the device fondly.  To a pre-school imagination it bore a striking resemblance to the steam engines of the day (LMS Coronation Class to be precise) such that I could not resist using it to journey around the house. This was an industrial strength machine which gave many years of reliable service.  It was still in use when I was evicted from home many years later for sins deemed far greater than riding the vac.

Stranger than my image is the video of the same machine on YouTube.  The owner must be rightly proud of his Electrolux which ceased manufacture in 1948 🙂